University pathways engage military veterans

Australian universities increasingly recognise the unique qualities and needs of student veterans, and more can be done to facilitate this pathway back to civilian life, new Flinders University research has shown.

A project team, funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) and led by Associate Professor Ben Wadham, recommends an inclusive “whole-of-system approach” to managing the transition from the military to university.

“University life and military life are starkly different,” says Associate Professor Wadham.

“While the military experience enables veterans to develop valuable skills applicable to the academic setting, the difficulties they encounter in achieving a sense of belonging on campus can negatively impact their academic decisions, persistence and degree completion.”

These difficulties can include a sense of difference form the wider student community, trouble adjusting to the independent and self-directed ways of studying, or an unwillingness to disclose their veteran status resulting in the university not being aware of their support needs.

The research incorporated a national and international review of targeted university programs, examination of supports provided by the Departments of Defence and Veterans Affairs, and focus groups with admissions and transitions units.

Findings indicate veterans are increasingly accessing higher education. As such, veteran-specific entry pathways and bespoke admission processes at Australian universities are emerging.

The report recommends a strengths-based, national and coordinated approach to tertiary admissions for veterans, with more emphasis on veteran-specific qualities and experiences.

“Supporting veterans is an equity issue, though it is also broader,” Associate Professor Wadham said.

“It is also a question of appropriately recognising prior learning, acknowledging national service, and understanding the potential benefits to other students of creating veteran-friendly campuses.”

The Military Academic Pathway Program (MAPP) is a four-week intensive program available to military personnel at Flinders University.

The Program is taught over 4 weeks and will next be offered from October 18 to November 12. Upon successful completion students may apply to enter the first year of a Flinders University degree.

MAPP is specifically designed to assist military personnel transition successfully into university, both academically and socially.

NCSEHE Director Professor Sarah O’Shea noted the importance of this research for the development of future student equity policy and practice.

“This research builds upon emerging scholarship on veteran experiences in higher education in Australia,” Professor O’Shea said.

“The findings from this report present opportunities for the unique experiences of student veterans to be foregrounded, whilst providing applied recommendations for higher education stakeholders to further support this group.”

Read the full report, Australian universities, and educational equity for student veterans, here.

This research was conducted under the NCSEHE Research Grants Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.


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College of Education, Psychology and Social Work